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Essay: “The home evolution”

One of the tasks set to me while I worked full time for the postal service was to deliver IKEA catalogs every year to those who had no objections to receiving piles of advertisements in their mailbox every week. As I had to drag these rather heavy things around for most of the week one did grow curious about the exact content of their glossy pages. So I did have a peek or two, page after page filled with pictures of rooms that looked almost lived in, furnished with IKEAs best products.

It brought back memories of when I was little creating a future dream home by cutting out pictures the neatly lined up furniture from IKEA catalogs and sticking them onto white paper. In the years that have passed since then IKEAs informative catalogues slowly transformed into interior design magazines and I lost interest in extensively planning for my future home, as I found myself caring less and less about any kind of trends.

Though I have been released from societal pressures about what to wear or how I should furnish my home I can still ask questions about the things that take place in front of my eyes. Like, what is it that drives people to redesign their kitchen and repaint their living spaces? What makes one particular color the perfect choice for cabinets in the 70s, but horrible twenty years later? And honestly, who decided that white was the best color for everything when they began to build new houses and apartments in the new millennium? It looks like a hospital waiting room, people.

And sometimes I wonder if there isn’t something in the evolution of our modern homes that creates things we really didn’t need before. Just look at all the appliances you can find in any store today, how many of them existed when your parents were young? Your grandparents? Around here people joke about the rise and fall of the bread machine, the super in thing to have in the 80s, now it might be stuffed away in the attic somewhere, so it won’t embarrass their owner. It does seem like some appliances merely popped up when it became trendier to be a home cook, someone who buys the freshest ingredients and tries to cook them just like in a restaurant. If you are going to play at being a professional chef then a blender, pasta maker, mandoline, ice cream machine, pressure cooker and many other highly specialized appliances are necessary items to fill up your kitchen cabinets.

But, how specialized do you really have to be with your appliances? How many appliances that can only do one thing can you really fit in your cabinets before overrun them? Do you really need a hamburger shaper, a meat marinating bowl, a milk whisker? But maybe the point isn’t what you use these extra appliances more, maybe it’s the fact that you CAN own one of them, a more modern show of wealth.

It ties into the other thing I have observed about the modern home, the decorating aspect. Sometimes it seems to be that form comes before function, creating elaborately shaped and super stylish salt and pepper shakers, lamps and other items that have no real function at all. They are just there to look bizarre and unique, paint splotches that paint a certain picture of the house or apartment you live in. Though there is nothing strange about decorative items, as I dabble in painting myself and what are paintings but decorations for your walls, I cannot shake this idea that some don’t value these home decorations for what they are, for their inherent beauty they can possess. No, what’s important is the image they give off, how they make your home appear to a visitor.

This idea of image above everything else comes to a head when you view real estate ads. They all appear sterile, pristine and just waiting for someone to come in and add some character to the place. The fact is that most people employ special decorators who come in and restyle your home just for those photos that appear in the real estate ads. Such photos can never show too much character, or the wrong kind of character, as that seems to put off buyers. Because if not, then why do all homes for sale look like they were decorated by the same crew of people? In fact, chances are they have been.

This obsession with image is not a modern invention, all we have to do it turn back the clock to the 1800s and watch those with wealth obsess about having a stylish home and country estate, even if they only spend a few months of the year there. And worry themselves sick in their quest to marry off their children to the right partner that can uphold that fine family image. But shouldn’t we have evolved beyond this, at about the time it became possible to marry for love without being disowned and disinherited?

I do think it’s rather silly that we still fret so much about how others might view us and that we expect to be judged primarily not by our personalities, but by the brand of coffee maker we have or the designer of our decorative glassware. But then, this modern society of ours can still be very shallow. Sadly, I must say. As long as our society comes with a baked in definition of what beauty is, in body, face, home and hearth, as long as there are enough insecure people who feel they have to follow them to fit in we will still have these wacky trends to deal with.

I suppose as trends go, those in home decorating and design trends aren’t that harmful and if anything they keep designers and decorators in business. And they let people like me wander the shelves of any department store immensely amused that someone designed a knife block in the shape of a person’s head.

Hey, maybe that would look nice in my kitchen.

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